Today, I was shocked to learn that a church with a long legacy in our community has changed their name.  A leader said, “There was so much bad history connected with the name of the church that we had no choice but to give the congregation a new name.”   As interesting as the details regarding what has happened may be, I have no intention of  judging the leadership’s wisdom of changing the name of the church.  I am not a member of the congregation.  I don’t even attend occasionally.

I do have several observations, however.  First, I do know the history of this congregation–good and bad.  Yes, oodles of mistakes were made.  People were hurt.  Yet, there were thousands of lives changed.  Thousands of people received Jesus over the decades because of the pastors, leadership and congregation. 

A good friend recently wrote that she believed that dying churches should be allowed to die.  She called for funeral services for these churches as they close the doors.  During this funeral service, there would be a time of celebrating the successes.  I’m not calling for closing the doors of this local church.  Yet, could it be that there should be a time of humbly celebrating the lives which have been changed?  In an attempt to fix the poor attendance, there have been three or four “forgiveness” services, in which people could publicly proclaim their hurts inflicted by the leadership of the church and the leadership would apologize.  Conceivably,  the opposite is also in order.

Second, possibly the existing leadership needs to look at their current failures, rather than looking backward.  Again, I have no insight because I’m not a member.  Nevertheless, I’ve seen again and again that few of us are blameless and self examination is almost never a waste of time. 

My third observation is that I need to personally examine myself and ministry.  For a number of years, I did a personal ministry audit.  I wrote down my activities.  I tried to honestly and seriously evaluate what worked and what did not work during the past year.  I wrote what I could be doing better and what I needed to drop.  I tried to examine how I could do things differently. 

When I came to Special Gathering, there was a similar system in place.  We present to our board of directors a quarterly report.  We include many of the things I’ve listed above and much more.  Our activities, home visits, parties, agency and church visits are there.  This becomes a record of what we’ve done, what was left undone, our successes and what needs to be improved.  While this report can and may become simply a list that is done by rote, it can also be a valuable assessment tool. 

Will personal and ministry evaluations assure growth in spiritual areas?  Of course not.  Will this ensure that dreadful mistakes won’t be made?  Absolutely, no.  However, it is a useful tool that can become a prayer list for my board and for me.  God’s blessings are the only thing which will bring lasting success to ministry because salvation and discipleship are our goals.  God’s blessings may not mean stunning growth in numbers.  Yet, God’s blessing does mean lives saved, delivered and set free.  These are successes that can and should be celebrated.

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